About Backstabbing

Hitting people from behind so they don't have an opportunity to defend themselves is generally not enjoyable for the people you're hitting. People have the most fun when combat is based on the opportunity for each participant to have agency and contribute to the interaction. Hitting people from behind when they don't have an opportunity to defend themselves is one of those behaviors that maximizes the success of one player by minimizing the fun of the players they are interacting with by denying them agency.


When we redesigned the rules for Amtgard there was an active effort to eliminate situations that rendered players helpless or hopeless; Extended instant-death spells were removed, engulfing instant-kill spellballs were removed, and classes had a lot of counter abilities added. The goal was to give players the ability to interact with their opponent in a useful, meaningful way. That's why typically you can feel like you're doing well and having fun in Amtgard even when you're still losing. Hitting people from behind so they don't have an opportunity to defend themselves is counter to that concept. You can determine that it's true by observing that people who are doing it to others enjoy it, and people who are receiving it do not enjoy it.


So given all of that, when is hitting people from behind so they don't have an opportunity to defend themselves ever a responsible action? The answer is that it's generally acceptable in environments where all participants are competitively engaged in trying to win. Within the context of foam fighting that typically means objective-based battlegames like "Point Control", "Ring the Bell", or "Very Heavy Object". In those games the group understanding is that the goal is to win, and anything within the spectrum of the letter and the spirit of the rules is generally acceptable to reach that goal. Basically, it's okay to hit people from behind so they don't have an opportunity to defend themselves when everybody agrees that it's okay.


When is it *not* okay to hit people from behind so they don't have an opportunity to defend themselves? The answer to that is likewise pretty obvious: When people don't want you to. If the people participating in the ditch at your park are making an effort to announce themselves when they get behind their opponents, then you should be doing the same. If the people in a ditch are working on team tactics that include running flanks and hitting people who don't have an opportunity to defend themselves, then feel free. If most of the people are announcing themselves, and one or two guys are not, then err on the side of not reducing other players fun and likewise announce yourself.



Keep in mind that if you violate the societal norms and choose to engage in practices that reduce the enjoyment of other players in order to maximize your own you will likely find yourself subject to some of the following consequences:

1. You will probably be talked to privately about how your behavior is innapropriate and asked to correct it.

2. If you persist beyond that, players will stop liking you. You've demonstrated that you don't care about their enjoyment, and that makes people not care about yours.

3. You will find yourself excluded from group activities and social circles. People generally do not socialize or work to include people whom they dislike.

4. Eventually it's possible you will be suspended or removed from the group entirely.


All of that aside here's some quick rules of thumb for etiquette on how to not overly minimize other players fun while still depriving them of an opportunity to defend themselves:

A. Don't focus on just one player. Spread it around.

B. Running a flank is almost always acceptable as long as you start off engaging a player in combat. This takes away the issue of not realizing that a person isn't just a random bystander or sitting a round out.

C. Don't do it exclusively. Giving players an opportunity to see that you're also participating in combat gives them a better feeling about it when you do deprive them of their opportunity to defend themselves.

D. Stay within the obvious playing area. Leaving the immediate area of play and then re-entering it behind a player is cheating. You will upset people quickly by cheating and will soon be suspended from participating for the day.

E. Make it obvious at all times that you are actively engaged in combat rather than being a bystander. Due to the nature of our games, it's often the case that reeves/heralds, non-players, dead players, and bystanders are intermixed on or near the combat field. If you make an effort to look harmless or otherwise look like you are a person that players cannot strike, then you are *not engaged in combat*. If you then use that as an opportunity to strike players you are cheating. You will upset people quickly by cheating and will soon be suspended from participating for the day.

F. Have a good attitude about it. Do not gloat, taunt, or mock the person whose fun you already just minimized. Doing that creates a hostile environment for the other players and you will eventually be removed from the group if that behavior persists.

Managing Disagreements and Outside Perception for Amtgard

We’ve been talking a lot lately about the intersection of race, culture, and self-expression. Some, perhaps most, of that discussion has been very heated and fraught with terms and language that encourage and widen divisions in our society. The arguments become about the terms, rather than the goals. Rather than what we believe in. This happens because being affronted and being angry, personifying your frustration and then castigating it, is a release. It’s a way to take a difficult, fuzzy, nebulous and thorny problem and turn it into something concrete. I can’t yell at an idea, but I can yell at a person. I can FIGHT a person, even if I can’t win; We get to cast people as hero and villain and say that this person is right, and this person is wrong, and there are clear, simple delineations in the world. It’s an appealing concept to the way our brains are wired.

And I want you to stop. I want you to stop today. This hour. This minute. This very moment. I want you to stop because, deep down, it isn’t the person you want to be. It isn’t the society you want to be a part of. It isn’t the person I want you to be.

What we should strive for instead is to be the best possible version of Amtgard. The version of Amtgard that is inviting, open, and fun for people of all races, cultures, and backgrounds. The version of Amtgard that grows by leaps and bounds through both welcoming new members and keeping current members interested and positively engaged. How we achieve that version of our society is a wide topic. Some of it focuses on how the rules operate, or how we run the elected offices, or how we manage local and interkingdom events. The narrow slice I want to address right now is how we handle disagreements with each other and how we manage perception to the world at large.

Handling disagreements within a group as large and diverse as Amtgard is about each individual in the group following some basic guidelines. When these guidelines are followed, we get conversation and resolutions. When they aren’t, we harden our opinions and get nothing but frustration and resentment.

  1. Avoid language that is designed to upset or anger the people you are communicating with. Instead, use words that serve to explain clearly and conversationally your concern or problem without attempting to aggravate the person you are speaking with. Consider the differences between the statement “You are the problem” and “this is an example of behavior that is problematic.”
  2. Avoid applying labels with negative connotations. Calling somebody a “closet racist” or a “social justice warrior” changes the discussion from being about the root behavior and becomes an argument about proving or disproving the label. This solves nothing, and is inherently unproductive. Instead, address people by name and talk about specific behavior you find problematic.
  3. Don’t engage with or respond to baiting. If you feel like you can’t see another response from a person without responding negatively, use the “block” function in Facebook.
  4. Don’t post angry. If you have a strong immediate, visceral reaction to a message or comment don’t respond to it for a while. Get up, go for a walk, play fetch with your dog, or get a cup of coffee. Do something else, come back in an hour, and then respond to it. It will keep.
  5. Finally, allow people an avenue to apologize and admit a mistake gracefully. Everybody will make mistakes from time to time, and that’s all they are: Mistakes. Assume the best intentions of your fellows and they will be more willing to change their minds when presented with an alternative.

Managing perceptions to the outside world is tricky. Even with all of the mainstream progress combat sports and LARPs have made in the last twenty years, it’s still a very strange and niche concept to a lot of people. It’s something that a lot of people have a very disjointed or incomplete view of. Somebody who views the “FIREBALL” video is going to have a very different concept of what we do than somebody who views an Armored Combat League promotional video. Both are partially true, but both are also completely inaccurate in their own ways. The primary way for us as a society to manage those perceptions is through our online resources and activities, and the primary goal of managing those perceptions is to present our best face to the rest of the world. Here are some things to keep in mind regarding our presentation.

  1. New people know very little about us. They don’t have any Amtgard context to apply to Amtgard. Things that we know do not have racist intent can appear that way to people without context to guide them. That doesn’t mean those things are wrong to do at Amtgard, but it means we must be conscious of when context is vitally important to what we’re doing.
  2. Amtgard is disproportionately white and male. It’s great that we are so successful with the white male demographic, but it makes it daunting for people who don’t look like us to reach out and join the organization. This isn’t because Amtgard is inherently unaccepting of diversity, but it does mean we need to take extra steps to be welcoming.
  3. Our online resources are about expanding our potential recruiting pool, not limiting it. If a resource can be made to appeal to more people rather than excluding people, and that doesn’t cost us a lot of effort, we should take that step. It’s the efficient, reasonable step to take.
  4. Things that are acceptable in person and between friends are not always appropriate for impersonal, public consumption. A prime example of this is the use of subtle irony that revolves around the audience knowing you personally. A warlord making a joke about “those dirty cheating warlords are ruining Amtgard” is funny to the people who know the warlord, but it’s just a guy complaining about cheaters to the new player who just joined your community. That sort of thing can be inadvertently harmful when applied to the concepts of race, sex, religion, or culture.

Given all of our personal views, backgrounds, and cultures it’s obvious to me that Amtgard is not an inherently discriminatory society. Furthermore, I firmly believe that when it comes to true acts of intentional discrimination on race, religion, or culture Amtgard shows its best side and deals with it expediently and professionally. What we, collectively, are bad at is being willing to assume the best in one another. Being willing to listen to one another and be flexible in our attitudes and behavior in order that all of us should get the best experience we can from our society. What we are struggling with isn’t a culture of racism or discrimination; It’s a culture of being obstinate simply because we would rather be “right” than actually be in the right. So take a moment, take a step back, and realize that tearing each other down achieves nothing. Instead, help Amtgard be the best version of itself, and show that version to the world.

Ban Your Toxic Players

Parks struggle with recruiting and retaining new players. One of the primary contributors to that ongoing problem is the Toxic Player. You know the guy I’m referring to. He probably popped up into your head the moment you read the phrase. He’s the guy that you really hope doesn’t show up to the park this weekend. The guy that you try and keep new players away from. The guy that, ultimately, you may decide you would rather not go to the park than deal with him.


It turns out that a lot of park problems are caused by this guy or gal. Tensions get raised, normally reasonable people have less fun because of the stress, and you end up with a situation where the group as a whole becomes prone to making mountains out of molehills. If Toxic Player explodes over not being on the right team in a battlegame, why wouldn’t other players get upset over being hit in the head? It sets a bad precedent that has consequences in lots of ways.


Your Toxic Player is taking away from the group attendance and fun while giving the group stress and irritation. Why put up with it?

Okay, so your group has a Toxic Player. What do you do about it? First, let’s talk about how to tell the difference between a player you don’t personally like and a truly Toxic Player. Here’s some of the traits a Toxic Player might have. They may have different traits entirely, but these are pretty common.


Warning Signs Of A Toxic Player

  1. Argues Constantly  
    The player will vehemently disagree, at length, about anything and everything that happens in the park (either in-person or in online venues like Facebook). They are generally unwilling to accept any answer or solution that doesn’t support their goals or viewpoints. This is about control and reinforcing their self-worth, not about reaching consensus or solving a problem.


  1. Poor Winner
    The player will go on about how great their victory was, no matter how small or trivial. They emphasize their role, downplay the role of others, and generally use any success to build up their image while tearing down the image of others.


  1. Poor Loser
    The player only ever loses because the game was unfair, rigged, the teams weren’t balanced, the rules were bad, their team members were awful, or some other reason. They get upset and vocal when they lose and never take any responsibility for their part in it.


  1. Know It All and/or Liar
    The player has all the answers to everything, whether you want to hear it or not. They are a lawyer, a doctor, a Warlord, a soldier, and everything in between. They have done everything, seen everything, and you better listen to them because they know better than you.

  2. Braggart
    No matter what anybody else has done, the player has done it better. You could have just won the Mister Olympia competition, but this guy is ready and eager to tell you about when he could bench press 900lbs. That was before he took an arrow to knee, of course.


  1. Always Negative
    This player can always be reliably counted upon to provide a negative comment on whatever you’ve done. This isn’t constructive criticism, joking around, or being playful: They really just have nothing positive to say about what anybody else does or thinks. The best you can hope for is that they keep quiet.


  1. Frequent Drama
    Drama seems to follow this player around like a cloud. Everything they touch gets blown way out of proportion. An accidental hit to the head? Clearly a concussion. Lost an election? There was cheating and corruption. Any problem they have becomes the center of the universe and everybody needs to hear about it. Loudly, in public, and at length.


  1. Cheats
    The player abuses the rules, looks for gray areas, finds loopholes, blows off shots, and generally can’t be trusted to play fair. This kind of player creates a lot of extra work and frustration for the group leaders while yelling their battle-cry “Show me where it says I can’t do that?!”


  1. Never Happy
    Nothing that happens ever makes this player happy. Things were always better in the past, nothing current leadership or members can do will ever measure up, and the game is generally terrible. No matter how much fun people around them are having, they are complaining about how bad it is.


  1. Will Not Change
    This is the key component of a Toxic Player. Most players, even good or great players, have some of these traits some of the time. Everybody has a bad day, week, or month. But a truly Toxic Player is one who won’t admit their problem when it is addressed with them. They don’t think their behavior is wrong, and they aren’t interested in ‘fixing’ it. They often advise other people to “grow a thicker skin” or say “that’s just how I am”.


A Toxic Player is one who has trait number ten (Will Not Change) combined with any of the other traits (or maybe a totally different trait that isn’t listed here). Given that definition, the first step in dealing with a Toxic Player is to talk to them about their behavior. The park officials (or any member of the park, really) should be straight-forward, honest, and kind. If you need some guidance or inspiration on how to start that conversation, here’s a canned format you can use:


“Randall, I’ve noticed that you’ve been arguing with other members of the group a lot lately. It’s okay to have an opinion and to talk about it, but once the group has decided on a course of action it’s time to let it go and move on to other things. Your recent behavior has been disruptive and is hurting the enjoyment of the other players.”


The vast majority of the time this approach solves the problem almost instantly. As soon as people have it pointed out to them that they were doing something that was hurting the group, they fix it. These people aren’t Toxic Players at all, they are just regular guys who need somebody to prod them a bit and point out when they aren’t being helpful.


A truly Toxic Player, the kind you should ban, doesn’t respond well to this approach. Often they will attempt to defend or justify their actions rather than apologize and improve. Sometimes they will seem contrite, but won’t actually change their behavior. In either case it’s imperative that you draw a line in the sand and then get them out of your group. They are hurting your park, and hurting your game.

So you’ve identified your Toxic Player, you’ve talked with them, and nothing has changed. It’s time to kick them out. How do you handle that? If you’re a park official, you’ve already got the power to do that. The rules make clear that you are the person in charge of ousting people who create toxic environments for other players. If you’re not a park official, you will need to work with your park official to get the job done. Either way, the process is pretty simple:

Getting Rid of A Toxic Player

  1. Step One: Put together a list of specific instances where the Toxic Player showed problematic behavior that negatively impacted the group’s fun or health.


  1. Step Two: Document that you discussed the specific and general behaviors with the Toxic Player and how they responded.


  1. Step Three: Identify recurring behavior after the discussion with the Toxic Player that indicates an unwillingness or inability to change for the better.


  1. Step Four: Have an open discussion with the group about the issue, present your case, get their overall opinion, and then act on it.

The process of getting rid of a Toxic Player can take a couple of months to do it right, but it’s imperative for the health and enjoyment of your group. Remember: Playing with your group is not a right, it’s a privilege. You are under no obligation of any sort of let Toxic Players ruin your fun with their unacceptable behavior.

Critical Distance Control

This article is reprinted with the permission of James Stapleton over at Omni Movement. Check them out at and find them on Facebook at

Control of distance is a concept familiar to anyone who has ever been involved in combatsports. It’s a common phrase among coaches, commentators and even couch potatoes. There are many complex factors at play when controlling distance. Fighters need to be taught important skills such as measuring distance and manipulating distance in order to control it. However,  before getting into the “how”, we need to understand the “why”. In the second installment of this ongoing series breaking down fundamentals, we’re going to take a close look at the concept of critical distance.

Critical distance is a universal concept that is found in all styles of combat. While the precise definition varies somewhat from style to style, the general idea always remains the same: critical distance is the range at which your attacks will be the most effective and your opponent’s the least effective. Those familiar with the Sweet Science will recognize immediately how critical distance is, well, critical to a fighter’s ability to “hit and don’t get hit”. The very definition of controlling distance is forcing the fight to take place at your critical distance instead of your opponent’s. It is obviously impossible to constantly maintain the same range for the entire fight, but if the fighter is able to ensure that the majority of exchanges take place at his preferred range, then he will almost always win the fight.

The pertinent question at this point is what determines critical distance? Some might answer that question by saying the build of the fighter. Taller fighters are better on the outside and shorter fighters are better on the inside, right? While there’s certainly truth to the notion, it doesn’t always work out exactly that way. For a simple illustration, a tall wrestler’s critical distance may actually be closer than a short kicker’s critical distance. Thus, critical distance is more accurately determined by what tools the fighter prefers to attack with. Granted, the build of the fighter has a significant influence on which tools he develops. A tall fighter with long limbs will often prefer straight punches and straight kicks, while a shorter, more compact fighter may prefer tight hooks, uppercuts and low kicks. However, there is enormous variation in skill-sets and styles even among fighters of similar builds, making critical distance unique based on the preferred weapons of the individual. It’s important to note that every attack has its own ideal distance, which contributes to the overall concept of a fighter’s critical distance.

As we now understand it, critical distance is the range at which a fighter can initiate his most effective attacks without having to worry about his opponent’s most dangerous weapons. It is helpful to have a general understanding of range. Different styles will break distance down into different ranges. I’ve often encountered the idea of four fighting ranges: kicking range, punching range, clinching range and grappling range. Personally, I prefer to break range down into three categories—long range, medium range and close range. The reason I prefer this system is that it is a little more flexible and accounts for multiple strikes being thrown within the same ranges. For example, at what is often called “punching range”, a fighter is also often at a good distance to attack with kicks, knees, elbows, and even shot based takedowns. Similarly, a fighter at “kicking range” may be attacking with a variety of kicks all of which have a different ideal distance. To account for this variability, I say that fighters either like to fight on the outside (long range), in the pocket (medium range) or on the inside (close range). The exact definitions of these ranges isn’t of great importance, as it’s more important to remember that every strike has its own unique ideal distance. To put it simply, long range is outside or just at the edge of arm’s reach, medium range is within arm’s reach, and close range is body-to-body contact.

In order to get a clearer understanding of how a fighter benefits from controlling critical distance, let’s examine a few notable cases, starting with Anthony Pettis. “Showtime” is a fighter whose critical distance is relatively simple to figure out. Remember, the best way to determine critical distance is by first identifying a fighter’s most effective weapons. For Pettis, it’s clearly his rear leg round kicks to the body and head. Hidden in a dazzling array of jumping and spinning kicks, the real core of Pettis’ game is simply feinting a rear straight and throwing a rear kick. He kicks so hard, so fast and with so much accuracy behind his feints that standing at long range with him is nearly a suicidal proposition. Even the notoriously durable Donald Cerrone, Benson Henderson and Joe Lauzon all folded under his kicking onslaught when they hung around on the outside.

Pettis circles back and to his left, the direction that will create the most space against his orthodox opponent. He springs forward with a quick combination. The punches are crisp, but Pettis isn’t loading up or sitting down on them. He just wants to see how Lauzon responds, and give Lauzon something to think about as he walks forward. Later in the fight, he flashes a few more quick punches, again without any real hurting intent behind them. Immediately after, he feints a 1-2 and destroys Lauzon with a perfect left high kick. This is what happens when you let a fighter establish his critical distance. Pettis is free to work his setups and initiate his favorite offense, while Lauzon is stuck reacting and unable to get anything off. It’s clear that to beat Pettis, a fighter must do their best to make sure that exchanges aren’t taking place on the outside. However, it isn’t as simple as just closing the distance, as Gilbert Melendez found out:

Coming forward aggressively, Melendez overall did a good job of staying out of the ideal distance for Pettis’ kicks. However, he was too desperate to avoid that range. Knowing he had nothing for Pettis at long range, he was swinging wildly and predictably coming forward. This meant that even though he was getting closer to what should have been his own critical distance (the pocket for his punches, the inside for his wrestling), he was putting himself in bad positions and making it easy for Pettis to time him. As a result, he got hurt by counter punches before leaving his neck exposed on a desperate shot and tapping to a guillotine. Critical distance isn’t as simple as “Pettis wins at long range, Melendez wins at medium range”. Melendez left himself too vulnerable, even at ranges that should have been favorable to him, all because he needed to avoid Pettis’ critical distance so badly. There was a man who was able to establish his own critical distance against Pettis AND be competitive even at Pettis’ critical distance, which is why that man is the current lightweight champion.

As Pettis attempts to circle and create space, dos Anjos calmly cuts him off. He stays in front of Pettis flashing his jab, and slams kicks into his body at range. He’s then able to step in behind his jab and smash Pettis in the face with a left straight. This is the exact opposite of what we saw against Lauzon—RDA is now the one getting his shots off while Pettis is reactive. Dos Anjos establishes his critical distance by showing Pettis that he’s dangerous at long range with his kicks in order to back Pettis up, then stepping into the pocket once Pettis has nowhere left to retreat. From the pocket, dos Anjos was able to land hard punches on Pettis, and also initiate his takedowns.

Pettis’ inability to get space meant that even though he was able to return fire in spots and throw a few of his own kicks, he was fighting a losing fight. Dos Anjos, by forcing both the striking and grappling exchanges to take place at his optimal range, controlled the majority of the One of the most important lessons to learn when studying critical distance is that to be great, a fighter must be competent at every range. If there is a range where you have absolutely nothing for your opponent, then any decent strategist will find ways to shut you down. Perhaps the best illustration of this concept in MMA history was seen during Holly Holm’s unbelievable upset of Ronda Rousey. Coming into the fight, everyone had a very clear intuitive understanding of Rousey’s critical distance. She’s a clinch master. If you let her tie you up, she’ll knee you in the liver then toss you on your head.

The general consensus coming in was that Holm was going to get tossed and submittedfast enough to fit the fight on Instagram. However, what we as a whole ignored was the fact that Rousey truly had nothing to threaten Holm with at long range. In the pocket, Rousey had shown some power, but there was no evidence to suggest that she could beat Holm there either. In other words, while most assumed that Rousey would get into close range and win, few truly considered the implications of her failing to establish that critical distance. As it turned out, Rousey struggled immensely to force exchanges to take place on her own terms. She was constantly getting outmaneuvered and walking into counters.

The few times she did get in close, Holm was able to escape—and even take Rousey down. Holm’s ability to establish her critical distance played a large role in her doing the unthinkable. Rousey was kept at range so long, and getting so frustrated, that she made the same mistake Gilbert Melendez did—she attacked too aggressively once she got to her critical distance. First she took Holm down once and went into sprint grappling mode to attack an armbar, but gave Holm the space to pop out. Later she got her favorite head control after wobbling Holm with a left hook and went for a throw immediately, but without breaking Holm’s posture or off-balancing her in any way. Holm kept a low center of gravity and strong balance, which made it easy for her to pop her hips forward and lift Rousey.

Finally, the finish came as Rousey walked into a perfectly-timed left straight, then ate a beautiful left high kick as Holm pushed her back into the ideal distance for that kick.

By forcing the fight to take place at her preferred range, Holm limited Rousey’s offensive output and created a ton of opportunities to hurt her. When Rousey was able to get to the inside, she felt the need to capitalize too quickly and made mistakes with both her positioning and timing. Rousey had nothing for Holm on the outside (and only a punchers chance in the pocket), but Holm was prepared to compete with her on the inside. Not to actually win an entire fight there, of course, but to control the nature of those few close range exchanges and get back to her critical distance as soon as possible. By establishing her critical distance, Holm was able to dominate and knock out the most dominant champion in UFC history. 

Practical Takeaways:

Critical distance is a major factor to consider in every single fight. The better we understand each fighter’s critical distance, what tools make that their preferred range and what skills they have to force the fight to take place there, the better we can understand what each man needs to do in order to maximize his chances for offense (hit) and minimize the opportunities he presents to his opponent (don’t get hit). The UFC’s next pay per view on December 12 offers some incredibly interesting stylistic matchups—Aldo vs McGregor, Weidman vs Rockhold, Jacare vs Romero, Holloway vs Stephens, etc.—and will make an excellent study for those interesting in honing their analytical skills and training their eyes.

For those looking to apply this concept to their own training, critical distance is an important tool in understanding your own strengths and weaknesses. The entire point of strategy is matching up your strengths and weaknesses with those of your opponent, so awareness of your critical distance gives you a goal to work towards. It also gives you a foundation to guide your training, as you develop accessory skills that allow you to funnel fights towards your strengths and force exchanges to occur at the range you fight best at. For example, a pressure fighter who likes to work in the pocket needs to learn head movement while stepping forward in order to get to medium range safely, but also angles and framing to avoid being held if the opponent tries to smother him. In future articles, we will discuss more of the “how” behind controlling distance, now that we understand the “why”.

Event Review - Winter War 2015

Winter War!

Vital Stats
Sport - Dagorhir
Date - November 5th-7th, 2015
Location - Trenton, South Carolina
Attendance - 570
Amount of Fighting - Very Good
Quality of Fighting - Good

Atmosphere - Very Good
Attitudes - Very Good
Site Amenities - Good

Overall Worthiness - Very Good

Warlords Brett and Brennon traveled to Winter War from Dallas. It was approximately a 14 hour drive that took approximately six months to complete. That's a LONG drive to make overnight. We arrived at 8am on Friday morning and setup camp. The event site was already pretty full, and we were number 400 through gate. Another 150 people showed up after us and things got REALLY tight. That's the first of my two minor complaints about the site: There wasn't enough camping, and the camping space wasn't laid out very well. The site needs a one-way main loop to handle car traffic and about twice as many camping spaces.

The fighting was really solid and plentiful from 11am on Friday until 1am Saturday morning and again from 11am on Saturday until 3am on Sunday morning. The games tended towards meat grinders. Meat grinders aren't really my thing, but everybody seemed to enjoy them. I had a good time in the ones I participated in. The mechanics were generally pretty neat for the games, but I felt like a life pool for each team would have led to more tactical and interesting fighting rather than just a long grind to run the timer out.

The night fighting was really pretty solid. My second minor complaint is that while the battle arena was well lit, it needs to be larger. About twice that size. We had people standing around on the sides that would have fought at night if there was more room to do it. Nevertheless, I fought as much as I wanted to, and that's kind of a lot. So that made me pretty pleased.

Highlights for me:
* Getting to fight Braun, Bel, Aiden, and Checkers. Those guys are all really solid fighters with a lot of potential. Looking forward to seeing some of them teach at SKBC in 2016.

* Spear Noodling with Batman. In the gauntlet meat grinder battle Batman got fed up with the enemy polearms and concocted a plan: He dives in and jumps on the spears when they stab and grabs hold for dear life. Then I pull him out by his backpack shield and we rip the pole out of the users hands and steal it. We got four or five poles in a five minute period. It was pretty hilarious.

* In the Four Horseman tournament watching Aiden plow into a much bigger dude from the side and slam him up against the fighting arena railing, drop him like a bad habit, then proceed to wail on him until they guy indicated dead by curling into the fetal position and cowering. As Aiden walked away the dude sprawled out and mumbled "What did *I do* to make him mad at me?"

* Hanging out with Arc, Snowman, Bear, the Albion guys, and the Seraphim kids.

Definitely on my list to attend next year.

How To Build A Lightsaber

Build Your Own Lightsaber

All credit for this tutorial goes to Joshua Grey Williamson

Posted by Joshua Grey Williamson on Saturday, October 17, 2015

You will need:

1) Flash Light.  They have a few different listings for the same flashlight some come with battery some with out mind which you get.…/Ultra%20Bright%20CREE%20XML%20T6%20LE…

2) Battery. I strongly recommend you go with the 18650 Battery option rather 3AAA as the 18650 are rechargeable and you will not have to remove your pommel every time you need to change the AAA.

3) FormuClear 1/2 in. x 5 ft. Furniture Grade Sch. 40 PVC Pipe in Clear…/206028369

4) Plain white startertube 4$

5) Loctite repair putty x 2 tubes

6) Clear Tape or Aethertape

7) Duct Tape

8) 1” reflective button as a tip reflector. You see them at all the cons. Use Zombie ones for extra strength or Flash one's for speed (Note we do not need the pin just take it out)

9) 8 to 10 1/4” washers

10) Premium opaque white tights

Step One - Flashlight Break Down

1 - Unscrew all of the upper focus rings on top of the flashlight and throw them out. All you're going keep is the lense and its casing.

2 - Next you're going to use the Loctite putty to glue the flashlight focuser into place on it's tightest setting possible. Adjust it so at it narrowest beam you'll be able to see a nice well defined squard shape of the LED on the wall when you have it right. Fill the 4 holes with the Loctite with a little bit of over lap locking the houseing in place at max focus. Let it set.

Step Two - The Battery

Unscrew the back for the battery. The 18650 battery fits very loose inside. Use tape to build up the battery so it's a snug fit. Next, tape washers together into a stack for the top and the bottom of the battery so it bridges the gap between the positive and negative leads from the battery to the flashlight. Make sure you don't tape either the top or the bottom of the washer stack; We need to conduct current through those ends.

Step Three - Set the Core

Cut the PVC to the length you want for the blade. Once you've got it sized, use the rest of the Loctite to bond the PVC to the flashlight. Make sure you have a good idea of what you're doing before you start bonding; The Loctite is only good for about five minutes once you mix it. You want to form a shell 2.5" up the PVC and 2" down the flashlight. Stop just before the button on the flashlight. This is going to be what holds our saber together, so make sure it's a nice even cover over putty with no gaps.

Step Four - The Button

Attach the 1" reflective button to the stabbing-end tip of your core. This will bounce any light back down the core and diffuse the light a bit throughout the blade. 

Step Five - Finish the Sword

1 - Glue the Startertube to the PVC core using original formula DAP and let it sit overnight.

2 - Put your stab tip onto the end of the tube, leaving the reflective button in-place underneath.

3 - Tape your sword up thoroughly using Aethertape or other clear plastic tape.

4 - Put the cover on the sword and tape it down. at the base.

Go kill some Sith Lords

The Role of Speed in Combat, Part 1: Perception

Originally published on and re-printed here with their permission

“So Fast.”

This is one of the most common compliments I hear about top fighters, but it is also one of the most inaccurate. Most top fighters do not have reaction speed any greater than that of the average player. Some are even slower than average. Yet the perception of “so fast” persists. There are a number of reasons for this. Today we’ll look at the first one.

What may be the largest factor in this perception of speed, ironically, has to do with speed of perception. As a fighter becomes more skilled, they are able to perceive more information about their opponent more quickly. As a fighter grows more practiced, he builds up a “language” of body movements. By “chunking” the individual information components of opponent position, muscle movement, and balance into the “words” of this language, the fighter is able to rapidly process and understand a large body of information. Whereas a novice unschooled in this language might have to read the individual letters of “elbow lift”, “slight torso rotation”, “sword shoulder pulled to the inside”, “hand back”, “weight shift”, and a host of other letters, the experience fighter reads “beginning to high cross.”

This is something well documented in all areas of expertise. Chess players learn to read boards so that they can instantly recognize a pattern of play. (1) Tennis players learn to read opponent position to predict where a return will land. (2) Mostly, this is a subconscious learning process that the expert cannot easy verbally express to those who do not have the language. To demonstrate the utility of this type of language building, there is a classic example from natural language. Consider the letters “oeos ni mts tmhh eaglndse“. Without looking back, how many do you remember, in order? You don’t have a “language” for that. Now consider the letters “glen is the most handsome“. Now how many letters can you list off, in order? All of them. Because you have a “language” for that that let you chunk the data into manageable chunks. Same letters. Fighters have, over much time, built up a language of movement that they’re reading when they face an opponent.

There are a number of important implications of this language. The first one is that, the better someone knows the language, the less information to have to provide to convey a message. This is due to the anticipatory nature of expert perception. (3) Because the expert has tools for chunking their perceptions into manageable numbers of data elements and they have an ability to predict what the message will be. As a side effect of this, they will focus on the area where they expect new activity or information to occur. In fighting, better fighters understand the language of fighting better, so they can predict what the message will be with less information. Which letters are missing from this: “sf_e l_ _j as_i” How about now: “jle_ i_ s_ fas_“? Having the language makes it easier to get meaning before all the information is in.

A second implication is that the anticipatory nature of expert perception makes is susceptible to being misled. When you are trying to sell a feint to another fighter, the better the fighter the more minimal the feint has to be. It also can make it easier to sell fakes in some cases. If you’ve heard “jlee is so fast!” enough times, you’re going to jump to that conclusion when you see “____ i_ so ____!“, when this time I was tricking you and the message is “tato is so huge!“.

The logical question from those seeking to join the ranks of top fighters is, “how do I learn this language?” The answer is simple: effort and immersion. First, the student of this language must make an active effort to learn it if they want to accelerate their learning. Focus on why your opponent is doing as well as what they are doing. Make an effort to predict your opponent. Fight in a manner that requires you to predict your opponent’s actions, as opposed to the manner that just lets you “win.” Talk to your opponent about what happened and what they did and what you noticed them doing. Expert instruction that highlights key aspects of reading an action can also be extremely beneficial.

Second, do a great deal of fighting. Developing proficiency in reading this language will take thousands of hours of practice. Just being told about it is not sufficient (4), and too much explicit instruction can impose a cognitive load that can actually decrease performance. (5) In simpler terms, if you give people too much to think about they’ll botch it because they spent too much time thinking instead of doing. Guided practice is the best approach. Lots and lots of guided practice. However, it is still important to ensure that you have the fundamentals of fighting down before you start trying to work on your perceptual skills. (6)

Top fighters are not particularly faster in reaction time or movement speed than other players. They are benefitting from superior skill. Foremost among those skills is an ability to rapidly perceive and anticipate what their opponent is doing. This is due to the expert having built up a “language” that allows them to process information about the opponent’s movements in a smaller number of easy-to-process “chunks” of information, rather than having to process every element of the opponent’s action separately, which would impose an impossible cognitive load. Developing this language is the result of long hours of exposure and effort at reading an opponent. This development can be accelerated through the use of guided learning with an expert who can highlight key cues as the student practices perception and action.

(1) Chase, William G., and Herbert A. Simon. “Perception in chess.” Cognitive psychology 4.1 (1973): 55-81.

(2) Shim, Jaeho, et al. “The use of anticipatory visual cues by highly skilled tennis players.” Journal of motor behavior 37.2 (2005): 164-175.

(3) Ferrari, Vincent, André Didierjean, and Evelyne Marmeche. “Dynamic perception in chess.” The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 59.2 (2006): 397-410.

(4) Williams, A. Mark, et al. “Developing anticipation skills in tennis using on-court instruction: Perception versus perception and action.” Journal of Applied Sport Psychology 16.4 (2004): 350-360.

(5) Smeeton, Nicholas J., et al. “The relative effectiveness of various instructional approaches in developing anticipation skill.” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied 11.2 (2005): 98.

(6) Ward, Paul, and A. Mark Williams. “Perceptual and cognitive skill development in soccer: The multidimensional nature of expert performance.” Journal of sport and exercise psychology 25.1 (2003): 93-111.

Warlord Style Tournament

WLS Style Tournament

We’ve recently been promoting a style of tournament that’s new to foam fighting that we first saw in another game. It combines the best parts of Ironman and traditional elimination bracket tournament styles into something enjoyable for all participants while yielding better results than either tournament type on it’s own. For lack of a better term, we’re calling this a "Warlord Tournament".



Warlord Tournaments consist of two separate phases for each category: The ironman and the eight-man elimination bracket. Basically you’re going to run an ironman list for a set period of time, then take your top eight placers by total kills and use that to seed a perfect eight-man bracket.


The Ironman

You want to have multiple rings, but fewer rings than you have dominant fighters. This forces the dominant fighters to compete amongst each other rather than creating a chafe-slaying murder-fest for your top guys. My rule of thumb is the number of rings should be one less than the number of good fighters. If you are running a larger tournament (more than 40 entrants) consider having two fewer rings than you have good fighters. What you DO NOT want to do is have too few rings which creates really long lines. If you have to choose between having long lines and having more rings, err on the side of more rings. Your goal is to have people fighting frequently, not standing in line forever. If you find your ring lines are longer than ten people, add another ring.

Ideally you need a reeve for every ring. That reeves job is to make sure that the fights are reasonably clean and keep things moving smoothly. This type of tournament really reduces arguments and cheating, since any individual loss isn’t as important as it would be in a traditional elimination tournament.

The only reeve you MUST have is the central reeve. This person’s sole job is to act as the check-in point for when fighters die. They should be located equidistantly between all of your rings. As fighters die they go to the check-in reeve, tell that reeve who killed them, and then choose another line to go to. I don’t recommend trying to tell the fighters which line to go to; The best way to do it is just let the fighters choose for themselves. The rings will automatically balance themselves out as they get shorter or longer. Remember that some rings will run fast, some rings will run slow, and that’s perfectly fine. Let the fighters choose for themselves where they want to be.

The ironman portion should run for a set period of time (I use 20 to 30 minutes depending on weather). Once the time period has elapsed the check-in reeve counts up the kill totals and uses them to create a perfect eight-man bracket using the top eight kill scorers. The person with the most kills is the top seed, the person with the second most kills is the second seed, and so on. If you end up with any ties for seeding, flip a coin. If you end up with any ties for the last spot in the eight-man bracket, have the fighters duel best two of three for the spot.


The Elimination Bracket

This is a standard best two-of-three eight-man elimination bracket. It’s seeded based on the ironman kill results. I count the streaks from the eight-man bracket as separate from the ironman. As long as you make it into each eight-man bracket, you can potentially streak all of them even if you lose matches in the ironman. For example: Johnny wins the Single Sword, Florentine, and Sword and Board eight-man brackets. That nets him a total of nine kills in his streak. He then fails to make it into the Open category due to not having enough kills in the ironman portion to qualify. This ends Johnny’s streak at 9 kills.

The placings for the category are the placings from the eight-man bracket. So the first place in the eight man bracket is the first place for that category, etcetera. I recommend using a 4-2-1-0.5 scoring method. First place gets four points towards overall tournament victory, second place gets two points, third place gets you one point, and places four through eight get half a point each for making it into the bracket. The extra half a point helps recognize fighters who consistently make it into the brackets, but aren’t placing in the top three. This effectively lets you see who your second-tier fighters are, which is good for them and good for your group. If you have a very small tournament (less than 16 fighters) you may want to drop the half-point scoring.


Pros and Cons

This tournament has two really important upsides in its favor: Everybody gets to fight a lot and it always runs on time no matter how many fighters you have.

Let me repeat that, it’s important: ALL participants get to fight a lot, and the tournament NEVER runs late. This eliminates the two biggest complaints most non-top-tier fighters have about tournaments.

The only downside to this tournament is that it will tend not to produce higher Orders of the Warrior for streaks. I don’t really see that as a problem, but it is something to be aware of.


Helpful Tips

1 - Have your ring reeves keep track of streaks during the ironman portion. I only award orders of the warrior up to five for ironman streaks, but it’s a great chance to give out some lower-level orders to newer players.

2 - Keep your ironman shorter rather than longer. I find a good goal is to have each category done in no more than an hour; So if my ironman is twenty to thirty minutes that gives me thirty minutes to run the eight-man bracket, which is just about perfect. Your tournaments will never run long this way.

3 - If you have a line forming for players to report their deaths, add another check-in reeve. You can total the scores at the end.

4 - I typically run the ironman so that wounds do NOT carry between fights and a simo means two new fighters enter the ring and neither fighter gets credit for the kill. They just go on to their new rings.

Tournament Anxiety Results

Tournament Anxiety

Recently we ran a survey asking people to describe their feelings about tournaments. We had an overwhelming response, with almost three hundred respondents! We finished analyzing the data and have come to some really interesting conclusions.


What Does The Data Say?

First, let’s get this out of the way: No matter how good of a fighter you are, or how long you’ve been playing, or how many tournaments you participate in you’re never going to be completely comfortable with tournaments. And that’s totally normal and okay. Let’s look at a random sampling of 16 respondents each from the Above Average (black), Average (grey), and Below Average (light grey) skill levels.

The black group indicates how known good fighters feel about tournaments, the grey group represents fighters pushing into the top tier, and the light grey column represents mid-tier and below fighters. You can see that there is some preference towards good fighters being slightly more comfortable than other fighters, but it’s pretty slight. A flat numerical average bears this out as well. The average comfort level for the lowest rank of fighters is a 15 on a 30 point scale, while the top tier of fighters is only an 18 on a 30 point scale.


It turns out the largest indicator for comfort with tournaments is just… Doing a lot of tournaments. This means doing a lot of tournaments over many years in the game, but also doing a lot of tournaments each year. Here’s a couple of shiny graphs that make it pretty obvious.



If you keep fighting and stick with it, you’re going to get better at fighting in tournaments. There may be dips in confidence as indicated by the charts. You may actually go through a period where you are more uncomfortable with tournaments than you were previously… And that’s perfectly natural. What happens is you get into the tournament scene with high expectations, then you realize it’s harder than you thought and it becomes more stressful. After resetting your expectations you start to get more comfortable with it again.


The big takeaway from the data is to keep pushing, keep trying, keep working, and it will get easier.


What Can We Do About It?

So with that in mind, what are some things we can do to help speed up the process? As it turns out there are a number of techniques you can use to make yourself more comfortable and successful in tournaments.


Think of the Fight, Not the Tournament

If you’re focused on the tournament, you’re not going to be focused on the fight you’re in. Stay in the moment and aware of what you’re doing right now. You can think about the tournament itself between rounds if you want, but during a fight you need to be considering your plan, what you’re going to do, and considering your opponent’s possible actions.  While you’re in the match, be in the match. Don’t be anywhere else.


Own the Fight

You can’t win a fight you aren’t in control of. If you are concerned that your opponent is faster, stronger, or more experienced than you then you aren’t going to be in the proper mindset to win the fight. You need to be aware of your opponent’s strengths, but keep sight of the fact that the fight can’t be won by thinking about what your opponent does, but about what you can do. You need to create a plan and take charge of the fight. What are you going to do and how are you going to do it? You make a plan, you take the initiative, you win the fight.


Each Fight Stands Alone

Don’t get caught up in your current standings in the tournament or whether you won or lost the previous fight. This fight, the one you’re in right now, is the only fight that matters. You win this fight, you move on. Don’t let a loss in a previous fight carry over into your expectations for this fight. Each fight is a new chance to do it right and win.


Think Relaxed, Be Relaxed

If you think of a peaceful time or place your body will respond physically to that mental image. Your breathing will slow down and regulate, your heart rate will drop, your adrenaline will calm down, you will burn less energy. You will be able to think straighter and plan better. Create a mental place for rest and centering that you can visit between rounds in a tournament. It will help you feel more comfortable in the tournament, which in turn will help you perform much better in the tournament.

Fighter Anxiety Survey